The new paperwork for starting or 'petitioning' for a divorce has been publicised in draft by the court service (drafted using the example of Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse as the divorcing couple!), is relatively short and easy to complete. Therefore, many couples may be tempted, particularly in these difficult and turbulent economic times, to go ahead using the new procedure without first taking legal advice. However, such advice can be crucial for both parties and have lifelong consequences.
Divorce has many consequences, the most significant of which are both financial and the future arrangements for any children of the family.
As a couple, your financial future may have looked rosy. As a single person, this may present a completely different picture. Many questions may arise such as:
- Is one party to the marriage even aware of the total assets and income held by the other?
- Is there a potential concern, where significant assets are held in the sole name of one party, that those assets are at risk of being disposed of before a claim can be made by the other party?
- Are there pension assets and if so, is there a real understanding and knowledge of both the pension fund values and the options available to share those values?
- Are there assets abroad and if so how can they be accessed and shared between the separating couple?
- What about debts? For instance, does one party have sole liability for a debt incurred for the benefit of the couple and if so how can that debt be dealt with?
The timing of the divorce process can be crucial, particularly if there are pension assets.
The overriding principle of the Children Act 1989 states that following separation, where parties can agree, no court order should be made regarding the future care of any child or children of the family. This also raises several questions:
- What if parties cannot agree?
- Does each parent understand that any arrangements must be made with the welfare of the individual child as paramount and not simply based on the convenience or financial resources of each parent?
- If one parent is not happy with the arrangements the other parent is trying to impose, does that unhappy parent know what options they have to pursue another arrangement?
Costs will obviously be of concern, but can de discussed at any first meeting when legal advice is sought. The long-term value of that advice may well outweigh the initial financial outlay.
"Couples will be able to get divorced within six months of first applying even if one partner is opposed, and the process will be largely online - including the serving of divorce papers by email - from next month".